Following my 9 April Stopcancer blog The Cancer Timebomb of Childhood Obesity, newly published NHS statistics suggest that by 2030 some 100 new obesity-related cancer cases could be diagnosed every day. This could rise to 112 a day by 2035, (or nearly five new cases every hour), according to Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England.
“Obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing the world”, stated Harvard expert Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, speaker at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, (ASCO), congress on 1 June. The ASCO has snow set obesity and its cancer cause as a ‘critical research priority’.
Dr. Ligibel, who teaches medicine at Harvard Medical School, states, “The US has higher levels of obesity but the UK is catching up. It is very troubling. We are making major advances in cancer therapies and treatment, but the risk is that obesity could undercut all this.”
Unfortunately, many people are still unaware that obesity causes a significant number of cancers. Given that a third of children and two thirds of adults are overweight in UK, we could witness thousands of avoidable deaths from cancer every year unless present trends are reversed.
The prevalence of childhood obesity disproportionally affects children from low income families. With a record number of children now obese, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies is considering the option of a tax on junk foods to tackle the problem. This follows the success of the sugar tax on soft drinks in reducing the amount of sugar consumed by children. Her report reviewing worldwide approaches to the obesity epidemic was commissioned by the British Health Secretary Matt Hancock and is due in September.
“I want parents to be incentivised to buy healthy food,” Dame Sally has said. “We need to make sure that fresh fruit and vegetables are cheap. Maybe we have to subsidise them by charging more, by taxing unhealthy food. Parents are then nudged to buy the healthy version because it’s cheaper. I want the basket of food parents buy not to cost more.”
If childhood obesity trends are not reversed, today’s obese children will be tomorrow’s cancer victims. To quote the Children Obesity Foundation:
“We are feeding our kids to death”
Jennifer A. Ligibel, MD, Medical Oncology
NHS Long Term Plan: Obesity
Tackling Childhood Obesity in the EU.
Working to prevent and treat childhood obesity in USA
Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia